Shelves that are usually overflowing with cans and boxes have dwindled, and storage containers lay empty at the Middlefield Food Bank Aug. 14.
“Donations tend to be lower this time of year,” Middlefield Social Services Coordinator Joan Lombardo lamented. The annual Community Round-up is the source of a lot of food at the pantry, and as the year wears on, the stock diminishes.
Lombardo said that she is proud to say that the community is very generous. The town has never had to turn a hungry family or individual away. The only requirement for assistance is that a person must be a Durham, Middlefield, or Rockfall resident.
The food pantry especially needs back-to-school staples, including peanut butter, jelly, chicken noodle soup and other canned soups, and canned chicken. Macaroni and cheese is also very popular with families.
Betsy Dean, executive director of Durham Middlefield Youth and Family Services, said that some families rely on free or reduced cost lunch to help with food costs. The backpack program DMYFS runs is intended to plug the gaps by providing aid during weekends and holidays. Children are sent home with a “non-descript backpack,” Dean said, “as anonymous as possible” to spare them from being teased by peers.
Items desired for the backpack program includes healthy cereals, tuna, pasta, macaroni and cheese, granola, fruit, and applesauce. Last year, 19 local children were served by the program.
The food pantry also helps stock a pantry at the senior housing at Sugar Loaf Terrace. The pantry is also in need of canned fruit. “Peaches and pears are popular with families and with seniors,” Lombardo said.
“It’s amazing what you can do,” Lombardo said. She sometimes helps families identify nutritious meals that can be made out of canned food; for example, combining taco seasoning and canned chicken, beans, and vegetables. Canned vegetables is one of the things the town still has a large stock of.
It’s important to give families a balance of nutrition, Lombardo said.
The town also offers other kinds of assistance, including fuel assistance and aid for medical bills. Some families are impacted by an accident, others are struggling due to the state of the job market, according to Lombardo’s interactions with residents.
“For them to even ask for help takes a lot of courage,” Lombardo said.
The department of social services also refers families to other assistance programs as needed.
The food bank also gives tooth brushes, soaps, shampoo, and conditioner to families struggling to make ends meet. This helps stretch grocery money farther so families can focus on buying staples such as milk, eggs, and other perishables the food bank does not supply.